Several weeks ago, we received an invitation to a gala event in the Okanagan for one of Allison’s friends, Heather. She was getting married to her significant other, Brian. We were asked to attend the three-day event in Naramata. (Naramata is, for lack of any better description, suburban Penticton. Penticton, just in case you’re looking on a map, is at the south end of Okanagan Lake, about 30-40 minutes from Kelowna.)
Allison was considered part of Heather’s inner circle of friends — she attended the shower and the stag parties. Now the question you are undoubtedly asking is: How does Allison know Heather? (Okay, maybe you’re not, but it’s still interesting.) A couple of years ago, Allison was enrolled in the Young Entrepreneurs Program, of which Heather was the instructor. Yes, Allison was Heather’s student. One of Heather’s other friends described Allison as Heather’s "most favouritest student". (In actuality, Allison often helped in the class, as she was frequently bored with the lack of stimulating or challenging material.)
So from student to peer, Allison was called upon to travel to the Okanagan and witness matrimonial bliss. With a "guest", of course. We took it upon ourselves to use the situation as research for our own event, currently aimed at mid-summer next year (we’re still working on the exact date).
Because the event was for three days, we hoped we might be able to save a little money by staying a night at Chateau Tisdale in Kelowna. Luckily, the Chateau’s owners were very accommodating, and loaned us use of the house, even though they were going to Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park.
I love my relatives.
So on Friday afternoon, we threw our things into Allison’s ’87 Toyota Corolla, shifted in gear, and headed directly to the Bay. I needed a shirt for the event, and hadn’t had a chance to buy one yet. It was a nice light aquamarine (as close a colour as I can think of) and a tie (yes, a tie) to go with it. Then we were off ... once we dropped off a library book.
We drove until we reached outer Abbotsford, at which time we filled up on gas. It was a long drive to Kelowna, and the last think you want to have happen is run out of gas between Hope and Merritt — 120 kilometres of zilch civilization, and $20/litre gasoline. No, I’m not kidding — tow trucks will charge you that much, because there’s no other place to get it.
Aside from a quick stop in Hope to obtain a small dinner, our next stop was in Merritt, where we were in need of something to drink. After you spend a significant amount of time on the coast, you’ll find your body requires more and more liquid when travelling in drier climates.
As we departed Kelowna, I got a chance to look up at the sky Allison had commented on earlier. It was cool and clear that night — the clearest sky I have seen in over a decade. And dark. It was so dark that for the first time in since-I-don’t-know-when, I saw the Milky Way. Across the sky is usually a large whitish band, where we can see the rest of the galaxy. City lights drown it out completely ... but not at 1,100 metres in the dead of night. We pulled over for a while and stared up at the night sky.
Kelowna was cold when we arrived, barely in the teens (we were used to low 20s back in Vancouver). After finding the key stashed in the backyard, we found the house wasn’t much warmer. It seems my relatives had turned the heat off. Fine with me, as we were getting free accommodation. It just made using certain objects in the house (particularly those in the bathroom) a bit on the ... breathtaking side.
We rose late the night morning, groggy from our long trip. After quick romps through the shower, we headed out to find something to eat. Despite the fact that Kelowna is a neat little resort town, it has one little problem — a lot of things don’t open until later in the day. We had hoped to have Mexican for lunch. The only Mexican place we could find didn’t open until 4:00pm. We ended up at the Earl’s, overlooking the lake.
Earl’s isn’t known for speed. This particular restaurant was stuck in what appeared to be an extension of the Kansas Interspatial Distortion (see entries from 1996), where time slowed to a crawl. It took nearly an hour and a half to order, eat, and get our bill. We were 20 minutes late getting to "Salmon on the Beach".
This was the first of three wedding-related events (actually, four, if you count the ceremony and reception as separate). This was the get-together for all the people involved (including guests) in the wedding. There were between 120 and 150 people, but exact numbers were impossible to guess, because we didn’t know who was a guest and who wasn’t.
Allison and I were among the youngest in the group, and felt mostly like outsiders. However, we were quickly welcomed by Heather’s mom, aunt, soon-to-be brother- and sister-in-law, and numerous other people. We certainly didn’t feel like outsiders by the end.
The families had commandeered a park in the corner of Naramata, where they set up volleyball nets, horseshoe pits, picnic tables (all courtesy of the town), and food ... lots and lots of food. All of it homemade. Grilled salmon, caught fresh in Port Alberni, along with fresh corn on the cob, salads of nearly every kind, and lots of fresh vegetables. Dessert was a selection of pies made from nearly every imaginable fruit. If you could fend off the wasps long enough, it was a good meal. (No-one was stung, to the best of my knowledge.)
One of the more unexpected events was marked with a sign, reading "Irish Jigging". They were referring to dancing, of course. Problem: "Jig" is a word used by the British to describe the Irish dancing. It does not mean the same thing in Ireland. In fact, it refers to the act of procreation. Not exactly what those who wrote the sign had in mind.
We stayed until it was difficult to see the people playing volleyball. It was also so cold we could actually start seeing our breath (of course, that could have been from sucking in too much smoke from the bonfire). Apparently, the volleyball players continued to the point where they couldn’t see the ball.
On the way back, we debated on what to do with the remainder of the evening. Both of us decided that a movie was in order. We hoped to be back in downtown Kelowna in time for a movie, but we weren’t certain we could make it. Luckily for us, we passed by the Westbank Caprice Theatres, which was showing a wide range of movies. Opting for the immediate guarantee of a movie, we stopped.
We ended up seeing a rather appropriate film, insofar as the basic event that was to take place the following day — Runaway Bride, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Given, we didn’t expect to see Heather making a 100 metre dash away from the altar the next day, but we figured it would be good for a laugh.
I’d just like to go on record: I didn’t suggest the movie. I merely agreed to it.
Twenty dollars and two hours of our lives that we’ll never see again (Allison and I hit the "why are we watching this drivel" point at the same time, however we also realized that we had nothing else better to do, so we stayed and watched), we returned home, and promptly passed out.
We were off and running early the next morning, making a direct hit on the De Dutch Pannekoek house. It was an experiment the both of us had been interested in performing. We had heard good things about the place, and thought it might be good for a test run. All in all, our spur-of-the-moment decisions to try something that weekend turned out fairly lousy ... the breakfast included.
I dropped Allison off at home, and quickly made a run to the Summerhill Winery, about a kilometre or so away from Chateau Tisdale. I figured that the loan of the entire house was worth at least two bottles of nice wine. Sadly, our once-favourite winery was nearly out of stock (the fall wine season is just about to start, and the spring lineup is almost gone). Remembering the St. Hubertus Winery not too far away, I made a hasty exit to check there.
As usual, the St. Hubertus Winery was empty ... of people, that is. It’s one of those little treasures that not many people know about. I knew exactly was I was looking for: a bottle of Oak Bay Gamay Noir (a very tasty red) and a recommended white wine. I learned something that day: Ageing wine in oak barrels means a lot. St. Hubertus has two flavours of Gamay Noir — one aged in stainless steel, the other in oak. The oak tastes significantly better. If the label says "Vinters Reserve", you’ve got the *wrong* one.
Returning after 20 minutes, toting two bottles of wine, I quickly got to work getting ready to leave. That meant showering, shaving, packing, and taking the wrinkles out of my new shirt. That was a challenge that completely amazed me. It took forever. Finally, after much work, the wrinkles were mostly removed, and we darted out the door. We were a bit pressed for time.
The wedding was at 3:30 (or so said the invitation). That meant moving quickly, as it takes an hour (at least) to get from Kelowna to Naramata. This is mostly because of the zillion or so curves and dips along Naramata Road. Luckily, we were provided with a map that gave us the location. After thinking we might have got lost (we weren’t alone on that point), we found Heather’s grandparent’s house, half-way up the side of the mountain.
Let me repeat that — wow.
A nicer home, I have not seen. I couldn’t tell you when it was built, but someone made a careful plan to make sure that every possible vista was exploited. There isn’t one square inch on that property, in or out of the house, that doesn’t have a killer view.
The ceremony was held on the spacious driveway/walkway that overlooked the lake and surrounding hillsides. Although it had been raining all day, the sun’s appearance only 30 minutes before was making the event a very memorable one.
Brian and his entourage appeared roughly 10 minutes after we arrived, followed by Heather about five minutes later. The ceremony itself was short, lasting only about 15 minutes in total length. That’s not including the "intermission" in the middle, where Brian and Heather went off to sign the marriage licence, then returning to finish the ceremony. A little strange, if you ask me.
Afterwards, we got into a receiving line to greet the wedding party and the newlyweds. This something that Allison and I are considering avoiding. It’s a long, drawn out detail that uses a lot of time that we think could be put to better use ... like pictures, or getting from Point A to Point B (this all depends on where we have our photos taken, of course).
Punch and hors d’oeuvres followed. Then it was back to Penticton for the reception at the Ramada. This gave us some time to whip through our hotel and drop our things off. We had checked in on our way up to Naramata, but didn’t want to spend the time unloading items. Not that it really mattered...
The reception was more research for us. Allison had me take pictures of the cake, head table, and one of the guest tables for reference. We also realized that the room isn’t that big an issue — it really doesn’t dominate the atmosphere. We thought about how we would arrange people, where we would put food, what kind of drinks we would serve (and where we’d get them), and so on and so on.
Our table mates included a couple who were loosely related to Heather (no blood relation at all, but were nonetheless a valued part of the family), named Micki and Donald. Yes, you read that right. They commented on the oddness of the two names. We noted it was a little weird that they didn’t go by something like Mick and Don. But hey — they’re not us.
The dinner was quite nice, including a couple of salads (green, potato, and pasta), chicken kiev, roast beef, and buns. The cake was delicious, even though I had no idea what it was.
When it finally came time to dance, the silliness started. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that about 50% of those attending were sufficiently inebriated. One in particular, one of Brian’s friends, claimed he was "a professional alcoholic". This, as he bought nine beers and two rum and cokes (he was using up $50 he didn’t want to convert before returning to Ireland).
Anyway, back to the dancing. Lots of people danced silly dances, including the dreaded "Chicken Dance". That’s #1 of the top 10 songs I will try with all my might to keep out of our wedding. The Macarena comes in at #2. They played that, too. Dance I did not, owing to the severe pain my shoes were inflicting on my left little toe. Mental note for next year: Do not wear sandals in the week prior to the wedding — my toes are a little too splayed to fit into dress shoes properly.
The reception ended around 1am, at which time we returned to our motel, and hit the sack.
The next morning was supposed to be the brunch, where all those involved could scarf down a tasty way to start the day. We thought about the traffic we would face, and opted instead to get a head start on the mayhem. We didn’t avoid the idiots, though, nearly missing one such idiot as he tried to pass another car on a hill, with us next to a cliff. We had a maximum of two feet to spare between us. It really got the ol’ heart pumping.
The trip back signified the end of summer. As we climbed through the mountains, we noticed that it was dark and dreary — just what winter looks like around here. Then it started to rain. I wasn’t too concerned, it’s only water. After a moment, I noticed that the rain wasn’t splattering like rain ... it was sleet. Not even before I said: "Hey, that’s sleet!" did the sleet become snow. Not just a little snow, a lot of snow. So much snow that the windshield wipers gummed up, and we accumulated a bit on the car.
Yes folks, when you see snow falling around you, you know summer’s over.
We drove until we reached Abbotsford, where we pulled off for lunch. Again, our trend of turtle-paced service continued, for what reason we didn’t know. After an hour, we resumed our trek west.
Our option to leave early paid off, we avoided the traffic we had dreaded. We pulled into our parking garage, and let Allison’s car recover from its 1000+ km journey. The drive probably did it well, though — it’s primarily used for city driving.
That evening, we went downtown to witness Mary, a band fronted by the sister of one of Allison’s friends. It was a good show, save for the volume differential between the drummer and the vocals (namely the former mostly drowned out the latter). Then it was home for a rest.